From the Superintendent’s Deskby Jeffrey CollierSuperintendent of Schools
March 7, 2018
Dear Au Gres-Sims School Community,
Traditionally, Michigan schools began their school year before Labor Day. However, since the 2006-07 school year, Michigan law has prohibited school districts from beginning classes before the Labor Day holiday. This letter is to inform you that the Au Gres-Sims School District, in coordination with the entire Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District consortium, has submitted an early start date waiver application to the Michigan Department of Education to request permission to begin the 2018-19 school year before Labor Day. To date, 123 school districts in Michigan have received a waiver to begin school before Labor Day, with record numbers anticipated to petition for the waiver this year.
All local school districts within an intermediate school district must adopt a common calendar each year to align instructional days as closely as possible. The approval process to obtain permission to begin the school year before Labor Day starts with a consortium of all schools within an intermediate school district submitting a joint application to the state. Our consortium application is requesting permission to begin school up to two weeks before Labor Day for the next three years. The law currently prohibits any school district from holding classes on Mondays or Fridays before Labor Day; therefore, if the waiver was approved, students would attend a maximum of six days of school in August, on Tuesdays through Thursdays.
Au Gres-Sims School District supports beginning school prior to Labor Day. An earlier start improves the alignment of our dual enrollment classes with college partners, provides more instructional time prior to important state required testing such as the M-STEP and SAT, offers more flexibility throughout the school year, and better facilitates the participation of our secondary students who return to campus early for extracurricular activities.
Our administrative team will continue to keep you informed of the status of our pending waiver request and the subsequent development of our upcoming school calendar(s).
Yours in Education,
Jeffrey CollierSuperintendent of Schools
March 1, 2018
Dear Au Gres-Sims Parents and Guardians,
In an effort to better communicate with parents regarding their child's attendance, and to reduce truancy, the Au Gres-Sims School District will begin contacting parents on a daily basis when their child is absent from school.
Attendance Notification Calls will begin next Monday, March 5, 2018, and take place daily, Monday through Friday, at approximately 6:00 p.m. Parents/guardians will receive an automated telephone call from the district via our new Apptegy/Thrillshare and Skyward student software systems to alert you and verify that your child was reported absent from class. Please be sure to update your current contact information with the Principal's Office if there have been any changes by calling (989) 876-7157.
Kayla Shoultes, our new Department of Health and Human Services "Pathways to Potential" coach, is also now on campus to help address attendance issues and reduce truancy.
Below are important facts regarding chronic absenteeism from school as cited by the Attendance Works Organization at http://www.attendanceworks.org/chronic-absence/the-problem/10-facts-about-school-attendance/:
- Over 7 million (1 in 7) U.S. students miss nearly a month of school each year.
- Research shows that missing 10 percent of the school days, or about 18 days in most school districts, negatively affects a student’s academic performance. That is just two days a month and that is known as chronic absence. The academic impact of missing that much school is the same whether the absences are excused or unexcused. Suspensions also add to lost time in the classroom.
- Absenteeism and its ill effects start early. One in ten kindergarten and first grade students are chronically absent.
- Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade or be held back.
- By sixth grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
- When students improve their attendancerates, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.
- Attendance improves when schools engage students and parents in positive ways and when schools provide mentors for chronically absent students.
As always, Au Gres-Sims is committed to providing the best educational opportunities for our students, and good attendance is crucial to your child's academic success. Thank you for your committed partnership.
February 15, 2018
Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,
We are confronted yet again with the painful reality of a shooting incident that resulted in loss of life and violent trauma on a school campus in the United States. Our heavy hearts are filled with empathy and solace for the victims, survivors, and community members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Regretfully, school violence has been on the rise throughout our country. These senselessly selfish and malicious acts of hatred are intolerable. As an entire society we must ensure that we do not become desensitized to these events. Rather, it is essential that we continue the necessary dialogues and debates that may ultimately eliminate such insanity. However, these escalating actions also remind us that no community is immune to the possibility of crisis. Although our dedicated focus at Au Gres-Sims is to establish a strong Culture of Learning, I wish to remind our entire community that our primary mission is to ensure, first and foremost, the safety of our students and staff.
We are continuously reviewing our safety protocols, policies, and procedures in fidelity with coordinated safety drills throughout the year to provide the safest campus possible. Our safety emphasis includes critical incident planning in collaboration with the Arenac County Director of Emergency Management, Arenac County emergency response personnel, and multiple police authorities. Further, we support and endorse the State of Michigan’s “OK2SAY” program which provides a confidential tip hotline. OK2SAY allows anyone to confidentially report tips on criminal activities or potential harm directed at Michigan students, school employees, or schools: 8-555-OK2SAY (855-565-2729) or http://www.michigan.gov/ok2say.
Parents, guardians, and family members, we need your help in monitoring social media platforms and alerting our administration, teachers, and staff to any information that may indicate potential threats or raise alarms of bullying, violence, etc. that may otherwise go unnoticed. We have the tools on campus to begin conflict resolutions, initiate safe behavior plans, or facilitate the necessary resources to provide specialized professional aid when we have prior knowledge of existing concerns.
Au Gres-Sims is a gorgeous campus and a wonderful learning environment. As a full community, let us remain vigilant to safeguarding our schools. School safety is, and remains, our paramount priority at Au Gres-Sims School District. In these difficult times, it is imperative to collaboratively work together to protect our children.
December 18, 2017
Dear Au Gres-Sims Community,
Our Au Gres-Sims School District is amazing! As we collectively continue our relentless pursuit of excellence, the number of partnerships we are forming with community and private entities, who are also deeply committed to the education of our area youth, are growing at a tremendous rate. The abundance of opportunities and activity choices for students to participate and be engaged in at Au Gres-Sims is overwhelming, both in and out of the classroom. Positivity is building upon positivity for our “public school with a private school feel,” and our partners are eager to offer their sustained support with a building momentum that is central to the story being shared about the incredible things that are happening for students here in Au Gres. Their enthusiastic commitments are positive evidence that they share our belief that the size of our district is one of our greatest strengths, allowing us the flexibility to consistently offer the dynamic and unique programming that we provide for our learners. Embracing and cultivating this progressive philosophy, the professionals within our established Culture of Learning are actively authoring grant applications to maximize our treasured resources, acting as ambassadors, and establishing relationships with outside philanthropists and experts.
Below are some examples of the grants (not including State and Federal grants) received just this fall:
~ Grant received from the Exxon Mobil Educational Alliance Program for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming.
~ Grant received from the Arenac Community Funds through the Bay Area Community Foundation in support of our Science Olympiad program.
~ Grant received from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) to support our river quality/watershed studies.
~ Grant received from the Captain Planet Foundation to support our Charity Island and greenhouse STEM projects.
~ Grant received from Target to support our “AGS Travels” student program.
~ Multiple grants received from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to support our extensive initiatives in instructional technology and dynamic classroom programs.
Following are some of the partnerships we are fortunate to have established:
~ Alpena Community College provides dual enrollment courses on our campus. Did you know that our students can earn over 30 college credits while attending Au Gres-Sims High School? Wow!
~ The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has provided a greenhouse that is being erected on our campus to support the propagation of endangered plant species by our students as a component of our Charity Island STEM studies.
~ The 4H Foundation and Arenac County 4H Leaders Council have sponsored a full VEX IX robotics classroom kit and resources for elementary science, robotics and engineering studies to build and enhance foundations for upper level Science Olympiad and FIRST Robotics programs.
~ Bopp-Busch Manufacturing continues to generously partner with and sponsor our competitive FIRST Robotics team.
~ Our Girls on the Run Club (Au Gres Chapter), an after-school running club, inspires and empowers our upper elementary female students to be joyful, healthy, and confident.
~ The Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with us to provide a full-time success coach for our students through the “Pathways to Potential” program.
~ Nike Marathon Kids has partnered with us to provide an after-school activity for upper elementary and middle school students to promote healthy, physically active lifestyles.
~ Recently a local family anonymously donated new, brand name coats for our fourth grade students valued at over $800.
This list is only a snapshot, and does not even come close to encompassing the extensive scope of our fantastic partners or all of the magnificent contributions that have been made to our district on behalf of our children. We are also the fortunate recipients of the tireless volunteerism, advocacy, and generous sponsorship of our Parent Teacher Organization members and Wolverine Pride Association athletic boosters. Further, our area residents who volunteer substantial time and talent for the improvement of our facilities and student activities is simply inspiring.
We are deeply appreciative and humbled to be the recipients of these good works, which I believe are indicative of the school district itself. Coupled with this extensive support network, our entire staff continues to excel and live up to the community’s high expectations and our far-reaching reputation as a “Destination District” that truly provides an unequivocal product of excellence in education. We invite you to join us and celebrate the knowledge that we represent a growing school district of unbounded student opportunity and unrelenting greatness!
Yours in Education,
Au Gres-Sims High School BandMrs. Kimberly Nitz-GordonAu Gres-Sims High School140 S. Court St.Au Gres, Michigan 48703
Dear Au Gres-Sims High School Band and Mrs. Nitz-Gordon,
On behalf of the entire Au Gres-Sims School District, I wish to congratulate you on your selection to perform at this year’s 2018 Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The honor of being one of only 11 bands selected to perform at this year’s conference is indicative of the exceptional brilliance of our music program at Au Gres-Sims.
Further embellishing this accomplishment is the knowledge that quality of programming is not directly correlated to the size of a school district. Based on student population, our band represents the smallest school to perform at the Michigan Music Conference this year. Together with our greater Au Gres area community, I take pride in the knowledge that regardless of size or demography, our student’s talents and your leadership reflect the hard work and professionalism exemplified within our distinction as a “public school with a private school feel.”
This honor however, was not bestowed randomly. Rather, it is reflective of sustained excellence. Your accomplishments of receiving only the highest Division I rankings at each of the District and State band festivals for seven consecutive years mirrors the passion you share for music and your consistently high standards for excellence! Our student musicians’ caliber of musicality and modeled leadership inspires us all.
I look forward to supporting you and being your biggest fan during the January 26, 2018 Michigan Music Conference. Thank you for continuing to collectively guide an amazing fine arts program at Au Gres-Sims that clearly elevates our status as a “Destination District.”
January 27, 2017
Often times it seems as if we are all working at a frantic pace to keep up with the demands of raising and educating our children; therefore it is sometimes easy to lose perspective in everyday details and forget to keep our focus on “the big picture.” We must remember why we choose to be here, advocating for students in this beautiful environment. Everyone, including staff, parents, extended family, local and non-local community members and business leaders from across the area, are deeply vested in providing the best possible educational opportunities for the students of Au Gres- Sims so that they will grow up to be responsible, intelligent adults who not only have the ability and opportunity to lead successful lives, but ultimately make positive contributions to society. With “the big picture” in mind, allow me this opportunity to share some of the things we have collectively accomplished in a very short time that reflect the incredible educational product at Au Gres-Sims.
Due to careful fiscal responsibility and a healthy fund balance, our physical plant needs are being addressed one project at a time. The high school gymnasium floor has been gorgeously refinished and roofs in need of repair have been replaced. By adding three leased buses, our bus fleet is the newest it has ever been, providing safety in transporting our precious cargo to school and home every day.
Our pupil enrollment has steadily increased, providing stability for the district, and our dynamic staff continues to be revitalized as we attract exciting new talent, full of energy and ideas, from around the state. As a district of leaders, our staff’s work ethic, enthusiasm and open-mindedness is contagious, and sets examples for our children to explore and engage in wonderful educational opportunities!
The renovation of our former wood shop and high school library area into a Cyber Cafe’ and Innovation Lab is nearly complete. This project will provide fantastic learning spaces for students to stretch their imaginations and discover curriculum in a wide-open arena that is not hindered by traditional classroom restrictions, while providing freedom for flexible, visionary teaching methods. With these modernized 21st Century learning spaces, teachers will be able to creatively share innovative ideas and projects that are limitless in scope and design.
Through the amazing partnership and generosity of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, who awarded $92,491.46 to the district in 2016 fall grants alone, contemporary instructional materials and equipment continue to arrive, allowing us to prepare cutting-edge classrooms for students. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has also been extremely supportive of our progressive new ideas and vision of providing advanced technological and educational opportunities for our students.
Not only do we model regional leadership in instructional technology with our established Project PowerUP! 1:1 Chromebooks in grades 6-12, but the district also received 195 HP 8200 desktop computers through a government partnership called Computers for Learning. This program allowed us to fully upgrade our entire campus with the latest equipment for the simple cost of shipping, and ensure state-of-the-art learning resources for all of our students and staff.
I am also pleased to announce that Au Gres-Sims has teamed up with area engineers and sponsors, including Bopp-Busch Manufacturing Company, to establish our initial FIRST Robotics Competition Team in the high school. This after-school program will build upon our already initiated STEM programming and provide secondary students experience and advanced engagement in the field of robotics.
Further, through a partnership fostered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the district plans to receive a large working greenhouse in the spring which will allow students to engage in environmental stewardship and conservation activities with vast, state-wide impact. This greenhouse project will also sync with our existing unique river investigations, water quality studies, invasive species awareness, and Charity Island studies.
Perhaps never before has there been such vibrancy on campus, or opportunities to engage in, communicate with, and share the excitement of Au Gres-Sims throughout our community. The public is welcomed and encouraged to review all of our featured news articles and information housed on our user-friendly website at www.ags-schools.org, follow shared daily celebrations and information on Twitter @AGSschools or via #AGSdailyshare, or even listen to the “J&J in Au Gres” podcasts created between myself and City Manager John Stanley, which can be found at http://www.ags-schools.org/community/podcast or on iTunes or Android.
Regardless of how we choose to invest in or support Au Gres-Sims individually, there is no doubt that this dynamic “Destination District” represents an amazing, stable, and progressive educational institution for which we, as an entire community, have much to be proud.
Perspective is everything!
May 29, 2015
I am extremely pleased to announce that, on behalf of our educational community, I accepted the United States Department of Education’s Future Ready District Pledge. Further, Au Gres-Sims received a full travel grant to send a four member team of educational leaders; Jeffrey Collier (Superintendent), Chad Zeien (Principal), Matt DeBeau (Teacher), and Chad Anthony (1:1 Director), to a Future Ready National Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 21-23, 2015.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Technology states, “The Pledge recognizes the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity, and new devices to transform teaching and learning. Superintendents from across the country have signed the pledge, demonstrating their commitment to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to set a vision for digital learning, to empower educators through personalized professional learning, and to mentor other district leaders in their own transition to digital learning.”
Accepting the pledge to become a Future Ready School District was a logical step in Au Gres- Sims’ continued alignment of instructional practices in accordance with progressive 21st century ideologies and learning techniques. Coupled with the steady, designed implementation of robust state of the art instructional technology resources and infrastructure campus-wide, becoming a Future Ready District will aid and support our Project PowerUP! 1:1 (one instructional device per student) initiative and instructional measures as we advance our strategic designs to remain educationally innovative.
Seth Andrew, Senior Advisor to the Executive Office of the President, wrote, “Superintendent Collier, as a signer of the Future Ready Pledge, Au Gres-Sims School District is already helping lead the way on active learning. When the President gathered district leaders together at the White House in November for ConnectED to the Future, he called on us to continue our momentum to build the kind of 21st century schools that all our students deserve.”
Starting immediately in the 2015-16 school year, the Project PowerUP! 1:1 program at Au Gres- Sims will provide each enrolled student in grades 6-12 their own personal Chromebook device as an instructional tool. To date, only an estimated 13% of school districts nationwide have fully functioning 1:1 technology device programs. This visionary 1:1 plan concept at Au Gres-Sims will provide students with contemporary resources mirroring instructional devices and styles being applied in career and college readiness environments. Consistent with our desire to provide only the best educational settings for students, our 1:1 Chromebook plan, combined with our pledge to model as a Future Ready District demonstrates our commitment to remain a student “Destination District” and Academic Regional leader in Northeast Michigan!
For more information regarding the Future Ready District Pledge, visit:http://tech.ed.gov/futureready/
February 3, 2015
I have terrific news to share. Today, our Au Gres-Sims School District was named an Academic State Champion by Bridge Magazine. Only 73 out of 507 school districts received this recognition, and Au Gres-Sims was ranked 34th overall in the entire State of Michigan! With special recognition, based on the metrics used by the Bridge comparative study, Au Gres-Sims Elementary School ranked 18th in the state out of 653 elementary schools, and Au Gres-Sims High School ranked 33rd in the state out of 552 high schools.
To determine the winners, Bridge Magazine partnered with Public Sector Consultants, Inc., the state’s leading public policy research firm, to develop a value-added ranking system which measures district’s and school’s test scores adjusted for student family income, which is often a predictor of academic achievement. Essentially, Bridge’s Academic State Champions are being recognized for overachievement, rather than achievement.
This recognition reaffirms our dedication, as a regional academic leader and Destination District, to extraordinary education, and the exceptional performance of our students, teachers, and building administrators. I am immensely proud of our faculty, staff, and – most of all – our students! We are also very grateful to our parents, guardians, volunteers, and leaders in the community who support our students and schools.
I encourage you to explore the Academic State Champs coverage and statewide rankings database at www.bridgemi.com and to share this wonderful news with friends, family, and others throughout our extended Au Gres-Sims educational community.
Bridge also offers opportunities for us to display this award every day. Please go to http://bridgemi.com/2015/01/academic-state-champs-bumper-sticker/ to order a free Academic State Champs bumper sticker.
January 5, 2015
I am incredibly pleased to share that our district continues to positively reverse current educational trends while establishing modeled fiscal leadership. The financial firm Gardner, Provenzano, Thomas & Luplow, P.C., recently reported during the school board’s 2013-14 annual financial audit review that, in a time when many Michigan districts have experienced struggles to steady finances, Au Gres-Sims was able to reinvest a net total of $81,530 back into the district’s fund balance, effectively raising the account above 13% of total operational costs. This positive financial prowess has been the result of steadfast, insightful, and diligent leadership from the school board, and progressive collaboration efforts from all district team members. This accomplishment is accentuated even further when realizing the major infrastructure reinvestment that took place this summer on our campus in the form of new roofs on the high school gymnasium and elementary library, and an extensive overhaul of the outdoor tiling and drainage system on the elementary playground and softball field.
The district has no doubt experienced the natural, positive by-product of being a regional academic leader with increased and consistent student enrollment which has had a stabilizing impact on our local revenue. However, both the Au Gres-Sims professional teacher and support staff associations need to be strongly commended for their joint partnerships and wisdom in helping draft sustainable, long-term employment contracts this past year to best ensure the stability of the district while bolstering our future academic product.
Further aiding the positive strength of our district’s finances is the ever-growing partnership between the Au Gres-Sims School District and the Saginaw Indian Chippewa Tribe. Since 2008, our generous tribal partners have granted Au Gres- Sims $483,663.87 in received monetary grants! These specialized grants have been intangible difference-makers in allowing the district to focus on creating sustainable investments into unique and specialized instructional programs which continue to demonstrate educational effectiveness in the classroom and continue to set us apart as a true “Destination District.”
Lastly, the district also just passed a Bond Refunding Authorization Resolution which allows the school district to refinance the existing debt retirement obligation at a lower interest rate. This proactive measure by the district will save taxpayers an additional $147,000!
Throughout this holiday season of thanksgiving, let us all be mindful of the incredibly powerful collaborative initiatives taking place throughout our community’s educational school system and be blessed and mindful for our glad tidings.
September 26, 2014
This summer, the Au Gres-Sims School District was an awarded winner of a $10,000 competitive grant from the Monsanto America’s Farmers Grow Rural Fund. The award comes with special recognition and prestige because Au Gres-Sims was one of only six school districts in the entire State of Michigan to win this 2014 grant.
Our department teams have strategic designs to use this generous funding to increase our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives across all curriculums by purposefully expanding and infusing our pre-existing Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) program into the middle school and high school curriculums. As a current regional academic leader, this large-scale expansion into our unique ROV programming will truly designate Au Gres-Sims as the premier “Destination District” for math and science hands-on, project-based instruction!
I wish to extend special gratitude to the three local farming families who nominated our school district for this wonderful Monsanto grant opportunity; Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Selle, Mr. and Mrs. William Huber, and Mrs. Diane Lynch. Further, I wish to express humble appreciation for the instructional leadership initiatives exhibited throughout this rewarding process to Principal Zeien, the instructional department chairs, the school improvement leadership team, our school board, and of course, the entire Monsanto Grow Rural Fund personnel.
This grant resource, and the resulting ROV and STEM extensions, provides even more possibilities for our students to receive pioneering, state-of-the art instruction in pursuit of career and college readiness skill sets. For students seeking to be cutting-edge leaders in math and science, Au Gres-Sims clearly remains the district of choice.
August 18, 2014
The institution of public education in Michigan has experienced a state of flux and transition for the past ten years. Many educators and pundits continually reference “fiscal cliffs” while easily citing numerous examples of districts throughout the state facing shrinking budgets, declining enrollments, large-scale staffing cuts, concessionary contracts, and facility disrepair.
Yet, Au Gres-Sims continues to shift paradigms. In fact, I have never been more excited or filled with positive anticipation for a school year starting than I am for this coming 2014-15 academic year! Au Gres-Sims School District has not only met the educational winds of change head on, but has turned perceived organizational threats into realized opportunities for our students and community. The culture on campus exudes a sense of positivity and collaborative teamwork that I have never before experienced throughout my career.
Led by incredible professional and support staffs, our educational product is superb and consistently receives state recognition, accolades, and awards for academic excellence. Further, Au Gres-Sims sets the pace as the most technologically advanced school district in the region as we appropriately prepare our learners for the Career and College markets of tomorrow.
Extraordinarily so, we are the “Destination District” for student learners who seek to become leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and we have been progressive in seeking programming and innovative funding sources to provide unique curriculum possibilities not found anywhere else in our region.
Au Gres-Sims continues to maintain its gorgeous, safe, and friendly campus with fiscal mindfulness and continued reinvestment into timely and practical facility upgrades while maintaining a healthy financial status. Therefore, it is with pride and responsible leadership that as Wolverines, we continue to model the maroon and “GOLD” standard for other districts.
January 31, 2014
It is a great pleasure to share that our Au Gres-Sims School District has once again been recognized by Bridge Magazine and the Lansing based research firm of Public Sector Consultants as one of the best districts in the entire State of Michigan. Out of 540 total school districts (public and charter) throughout the state, we ranked #66 - up three spots from last year's outstanding #69 ranking. This places us in the top 12% of all districts state-wide for the second straight year as the regional academic leader. We narrowly missed being recognized as an Academic All-State honoree which is designated for the top 10%, or first 54 spots.
Bridge Magazine examines data from the previous academic year and uses a value-added ranking system to measure a district's test scores adjusted for student family income levels. This value added ranking system measures the true effectiveness of schools, and therefore is not a ranking of achievement, but overachievement!
This recognition affirms our work and conviction toward doing what is best for students. Further, our consistent annual ranking speaks to the exceptional focus on instructional quality, curriculum reform, and attention to guided school improvement initiatives cultivated within a professional learning community culture. Everyone plays a vital role as a team member in our accomplishments, and I encourage you to take a moment to reflect not only upon the great recognition of our efforts as a whole community, but on the reality of the sustainable, positive impact we provide for our student-learners as a Destination District. I am so proud of our Au Gres-Sims educational community and the diligent work ethic of our students, staff, administrators, school board, and engaged stakeholders. The sky is our limit as we continue the collaborative style of data-based and research-sound work we do here as a collective. Congratulations Au Gres-Sims!
Please feel free to read and share with friends the entire story at Bridgemi.com, or at the following web address: http://bridgemi.com/tag/series-2013-academic-state...
October 23, 2013
Dear Greater Au Gres-Sims Community,
The University of Gonzaga is a small Jesuit college located in Spokane, Washington. The ‘Zags have become famous for their ability to recruit major basketball talent from across the country and make impressive NCAA men’s tournament runs toward national titles for the past ten years, despite their relatively small undergraduate enrollment in comparison to other major universities. The Gonzaga men’s basketball teams have not always been nationally recognized, however. Prior to their recent successes within their conference championships and March Madness tournaments, they were relatively unknown outside of the Northwest, and their teams were referred to as “Cinderella stories,” “flash in the pans,” and “one-hit wonders,” based on what analysts argued were special collections of “once in a program’s history” caliber of team talent. Yet, regardless of their critics, Gonzaga has been able to continue their brilliance and capitalize upon their successes throughout the past decade, even earning the #1 national ranking in the Associated Press Poll at one point in last year’s season. Now, not only is Gonzaga recognized as a powerhouse program – no longer Cinderellas – but they also receive critical acclaim and national prestige while consistently establishing measures of excellence on the basketball court.
I reference Gonzaga’s success as an analogy because Au Gres-Sims has rocked our regional constituency these past two years and we are now preparing to again set the standard for academic achievement with another great “run” this year. As the awards and accolades continue to arrive, along with the expressed communication and appropriate marketing and broadcasting of our accomplishments, we now find ourselves on a unique organizational precipice. Outside pundits suppose that our recent achievements indicate singular spikes in proficiency scores and that we cannot possibly sustain our current levels of excellence. I contend that our critics grotesquely underestimate our culture, professionalism, collaboration, abilities, work ethic, determination, resources, student opportunities, focus on student achievement, and blossoming potential.
Au Gres-Sims, like Gonzaga, is no longer a hidden gem. Our burgeoning student enrollment numbers (a realized 14% total student population increase by the 2013 fall count day), representing family choice, are indicators of greatness, as well as the amazing amount of instructional talent we are amassing who seek to join our team. These realities are direct by-products of the incredibly powerful work we continue to do here as a collective, coupled with our progressive vision which continues to assert our academic leadership throughout the region. We are experiencing peak moments and realizing the benefits of persistent focus on doing what is best for students.
But, the question from our reserved, “let’s wait and see” community members begs “What will Au Gres-Sims do now?” As an organization, we are at a critical juncture. Will we solidly benchmark ourselves as the resonating educational force in our area, or was our recent success and perceived hard work a mere anomaly? The reality is that the pressure to continue to be the best choice for students is much higher and stressful than simply working toward earning a seat at the table and being included in marginal discussions. It was easier to fly under the radar because social expectations had not yet been heightened, and we had not necessarily taken the organizational steps to comfortably begin to self-actualize the special things that were happening on our campus. Presently, we find ourselves out in front and setting the academic pace for our neighbors. Nevertheless, this understanding also comes with a set of entirely new change challenges for our school district that we will work to identify through our school improvement initiatives, joint communication opportunities, and professional learning communities moving forward. For some of us, these changes will not be easy and deep introspection of past practices will be necessary to shift us through to the understanding that “what got us here, may not get us there.” Although I assume that the sense of accomplishment toward working to optimize our potential as a student service institution is worth the sweat equity, we must brace and prepare ourselves for the even harder work necessitated to advance forward and developmentally progress.
Together, we have already identified areas of improvement that we must take into account, address, and appropriately solve. We must continue to adapt to the needs of our students while growing ever more savvy, comfortable, and capable with applied data usage and interpretation to improve instructional strategies. We need to vigilantly remain reflective of our own crafts and instructional artistry, and work together toward alleviating areas of deficiencies, while simultaneously reviewing processes and addressing areas in which we can become more efficient and productive. I contend that we owe it to our students to be the best, that we owe it to our community to ensure that we remain the academic regional leader, and that we owe it to ourselves to celebrate the culminating successes of our hard work. We must resolve to be steadfast in our support of each other as a unified team proceeding forward to shape a common vision to be the absolute Destination District for our student learners by involving stakeholders at every community level. We know that every student will succeed here, no matter what it takes!
Au Gres-Sims is poised and ready to launch into a realm of success and notoriety that we may not have envisioned for our district in what seems to be a short amount of time. Still, our resolute and deliberate actions henceforth will cement the fate we ultimately choose; establish ourselves as the continued and preeminent academic regional leader, or prove our detractors correct by failing to move from good to great. I propose we continue to challenge the fabric of our organization by setting even loftier goals, aiming for new summits, achieving new benchmarks, and vigorously celebrating our inevitable achievements, while firmly establishing ourselves as the gold standard by which other institutions react and compare themselves. Together, let us realize our potential as we make the Au Gres-Sims School District exceptional!
September 3, 2013
As summer draws to a close, the excitement starts to build here at school. Staff begin filtering back to campus making preparations for the return of students, parents are enrolling their children and making arrangements for the school year ahead, maintenance staff work to finish summer projects throughout the buildings and grounds, and this place literally begins to hum!
But during the “quiet” months of summer, it has not been so quiet around here. The administrative staff has been very busy preparing as well. We are constantly looking ahead and exploring additional programs and initiatives that will expand opportunities for our students to be educationally successful. We are extremely excited about all of the new things happening in our schools, and the opportunities that are opening up for our learners like never before!
I encourage parents and community members to visit our schools and become actively engaged partners with us in your student’s lives. These are exciting times for our children, and to truly excel, our students need the support and encouragement of involved family participants who are knowledgeable of the curriculum, programs, activities and issues they participate in every day.
There is no mistaking the positive energy and exciting vibe around campus! So, let’s get ready everyone, because school is starting and together, we are about to embark upon a dynamic and skyrocketing academic ride!